Birder's Guide

AUG 2013

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 63 of 67

Bird Like a Local: Tech Tips for Travel Spy with BirdsEye The eBird database offers unprecedented ability to see what other birders are seeing and where. You can access this information via your laptop and an internet connection, or by using a mobile device and the bird-fnding app BirdsEye. (For a hands-on look at using BirdsEye while traveling, see "On the Road with BirdsEye: A Cross-Country Review", Birding, July 2011, pp. 58-60.) By laptop, go to eBird's range and point map , then customize your search to species, geography, and/ or time period. A collection of pushpins will appear on a Google map. Click on the pushpin to see that observer's complete report, including location, comments, and other species seen. The BirdsEye app for mobile devices also accesses eBird sightings. Selecting "Find Nearby Birds" or "Notable Sightings and Rare Birds" automatically brings up the birds reported to eBird near your current location, or at any location you choose. The Audubon Birds feld guide app integrates a similar search in its "Find Birds with eBird" option. Pushpins on a map—showing the precise location of a coveted bird—might seem too easy to be true. Correct, it's not quite that easy. The pushpin does not show the exact location: it's either pegged to a default location at a birding hotspot (typi- Some Great Birding Travel Apps: • The Sibley eGuide to Birds (iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry) • National Geographic Birds (iOS) • Peterson Birds of North America (iOS) • Audubon Birds (iOS, Android) • iBird Pro (iOS, Android, Windows) • birdJam HeadsUp Warblers (iOS) • birdJam HeadsUp Sparrows (iOS) • BirdsEye (iOS) • BirdLog (iOS, Android) • BirdTunes (iOS) • Larkwire (iOS, some Android, internet) • Lifebirds Journal (iOS) • Birdwatcher's Diary (iOS) 62 cally the entrance parking lot) or placed at a "personal location" with some fudging to protect privacy. Don't go to the pushpin and expect to see the bird! It's almost certainly somewhere else—potentially even a quarter-mile away. But there are ways to outsmart eBird. Let's say there are three pushpin reports, which happened to be with a Gray Kingbird query. It doesn't take a math genius to infer that the "true" location, before eBird's algorithm added some privacy noise, is most likely at the geometric center of the three points. I went to that location, looked up, and there was a Gray Kingbird on the wire. If there are multiple nearby reports, compare the locations. Some eBirders simply pick the nearest pre-existing hotspot; others create a new, more precise, location marker. For example, a Razorbill was reported at Porpoise Point, a residential peninsula with a sand spit into the inlet— odd habitat for a Razorbill, but possible... However, another report on the same day and time (presumably two people birding together) placed the sighting at a custom location out in the inlet—much more likely and, indeed, the bird's "true" position. Even if there is only one pushpin eBird report, with a bit of detective work you can deduce the bird's true location by looking at a Google or Bing satellite map. I was looking for a reported Vermilion Flycatcher, its eBird location marked by a pushpin in woods. Unlikely. But a satellite image of the area showed a nearby open pond with tree snags—perfect Vermilion Flycatcher habitat. Bingo! List the Birds You may not have much time to study before you travel to a new area, but at least create a short list of what birds are expected there. This provides some structure to any studying you do, and prepares your mind for the likely identifcation candidates when in the feld. A quick way to create a short list is with a feld guide app. For example, the Sibley eGuide to Birds app lets you select your travel area, creating an excerpted feld guide. Now you can quickly screen-swipe through a subset of the app's 810 species. Birder's Guide to Travel | August 2013 Similarly, the Audubon Birds app can be set to display only the likely birds in a given area and month. If you're visiting a particular park, check that park's website for a downloadable PDF of their bird checklist, as in this fle created for Minnesota's Tettegouche State Park . These fles are the digital equivalent of the trifold paper handout available at their visitor center. By downloading and printing this resource in advance, you can highlight the birds to expect for that season and focus your studying on those you don't know or would particularly like to see. For general regional birding, print out the eBird checklist of likely species. Although eBird has the option for printing detailed frequency bar graphs by species and county/parish , I often fnd this level of detail a bit overwhelming for an unfamiliar region. To create an eBird short list, log in to eBird and pretend you are submitting a checklist for your travel area. The default list will appear on the screen. Print this and you've got a starter cheat sheet! If you want to organize the list by likelihood (frequent, infrequent [less than 10% of reports], and not reported lately), then select the option "Group by Most Likely". Now cancel your dummy submission. Find the Birding Trails Many states now promote their nature tourism with a "birding trail", which consists of directions to selected birding hotspots along an effcient driving route. Texas was the frst state to launch such a trail in 1996, with many other states following. The ABA maintains a list of birding trails on its website . Whereas you once had to plan ahead and request mailed brochures, most birding trails now provide free downloadable PDFs. Some states, such as Florida and Washington, have birding trail apps that suggest nearby birding stops, provide driving directions, and locate needed amenities. Be aware that the quality of information on birding trails varies widely. Some birding trail brochures are publications designed by the state's tourism offce, containing potentially inaccurate or dated

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